The Dolgan economy and culture reflect their complex origins. The traditional occupations of the Dolgans are reindeer husbandry and hunting, and in some regions, fishing. They led a nomadic life, not leaving the forest-tundra zone. Families of the Norilsk and Popigai Dolgans lived separately from each other in winter, while the other groups had 5–6 households together. Some families lived in permanent huts. With the onset of spring, several Dolgan families formed nomadic groups. The reindeer were guarded 24 hours a day, assigning guards from each farm. In the fall, the groups split up, each family separately prepared Arctic fox traps for winter, and hunted wild deer.
Dolgan reindeer husbandry combined the traditions of Tungus horse reindeer husbandry with the techniques borrowed from the Samoyedians. Reindeer were used under the saddle and pack (in summer) and in sledges (in winter). The types of sleds are basically similar to the Nenets and Nganasan sleds, but there are also Yakut-type sleds - with low, straight-set base wood block. The way of harnessing is different from the Nenets one: the leading deer is harnessed and driven by the reins on the right, while among the Nenets, Enets and Nganasans, on the left.
Reindeer milking, which is typical of Evenks, is preserved. A shepherd's dog is used, like the Nenets and Nganasans. Saddles and riding method - Tungus type.
The Dolgans hunted Arctic foxes, reindeer and birds - geese, ducks, partridges. According to legend, the Dolgans hunted wild deer with throwing arrows and a bow; crossbow is still used. Nowadays, firearms borrowed from the Russians are widespread. Poisoned bullets were consumed, poison was produced from the rancid fat of wild deer. The autumn collective hunting of reindeer during river crossings were of great importance. In summer and autumn, the reindeer were traced with the help of a hunting dog. In the autumn, during the rutting season for wild deer, a specially trained domestic deer was used.
In winter, they hunted reindeer by rutting: they harnessed four reindeer into light sledges and chased the tracked herd for hours. In winter, when sneaking up to a herd of wild deer, hunters covered themselves with a shield placed on runners. They used wide skis of the Tungus type. For hunting waterfowl, nets, snares, traps were used. When hunting for ptarmigans, a live female ptarmigan was tied as a bait. In the hunt for Arctic fox, traps were used – the mouth: the Arctic fox, grabbing the bait, pulled out a bait stick and dropped the oppressive log onto itself. Arctic fox hunting was mainly of commercial value.
In fishing, for ice fishing, they used set nets made of threads or horsehair brought from Yakutia. Small boats were bought from Russians and Yakuts.
The Dolgans ate mainly meat and fish (boiled and dried). Frozen fish (stroganina) and thawed fish were consumed raw.